Georgia O'Keeffe and her garden


Georgia O'Keefe, Abiquiu House, New Mexico⁣ [Image - Todd Webb, 1963]⁣

Image - Georgia O'Keeffe by Todd Webb, 1963


"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not." - Georgia O'Keeffe⁣


Well known for her abstract paintings, artist Georgia O'Keeffe (1887 - 1986) was also a keen gardener. Having been raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, she maintained a strong interest and appreciation of nature throughout her life, evident in her work with numerous paintings of flowers, trees, landscapes and other natural forms. 


Image - Georgia O'Keeffe, Abstraction White Rose, 1927


O'Keeffe lived at her Ghost Ranch property in New Mexico, often visiting nearby Abiquiu to paint the landscape. It was here that she discovered an empty house, built in the mid-1700s, with a garden that pleased her enormously. This house ignited her ever increasing desire to have a garden of her own to tend to. Despite it not being on the market, and eventually taking 15 years to purchase the property, O'Keeffe went on to move into the Abiquiu house in 1949, where she lived until she died in 1986. 
Maria Chabot, Georgia O’Keeffe in the Abiquiú Garden, 1944. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
Image - Georgia O’Keeffe in the Abiquiú Garden, 1944. Maria Chabot, © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.


Image - Abiquiu home, 1981, Architectural Digest


“This house is just another of the odd things I have done in my life, it even has a garden all walled in, and it has surprised me to feel what a warming difference it can make in one’s life.” - Georgia O'Keeffe


Image - Georgia O'Keeffe tending to her herb garden


In her garden, O'Keeffe grew a wide range of produce from herbs and vegetables to fruits and flowers. She read extensively on gardening and kept gardening journals which are preserved by the O'Keeffe Research Center. Sustainable gardening techniques were a particular area of interest for her and she was an early adopter of these organic, natural gardening methods, avoiding the use of pesticides which was becoming common practice at the time. Today, students from local high schools help to maintain her garden by weeding, planting and harvesting produce similar to those grown by O'Keeffe. A livestream of the garden is available to view online.

For O'Keeffe, her garden was an integral part of her life as an artist and an influencing factor on her artwork - nature was after all the true source of her art. She found great joy and solace in being in her garden, but also had a strong appreciation for bringing the outdoors in, keeping various potted plants such as a geranium, aloe and fern that still remain in the house today. Her death at the age of 98, is a great testament to the mental and physical benefits that connecting with nature, through activities such as gardening and adopting a natural food diet brings. 

Image - Herb Lotz, Georgia O'Keeffe House, Abiquiu - Patio, 2007. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum


Image - Georgia O’Keeffe holding Chama River Stone, Abiquiu, New Mexico. 1975 © Dan Budnik